Laura Maria Caterina Bassi (29 November 1711 – 20 February 1778) was an Italian scientist, received a doctoral degree from the University of Bologna in May 1732, only the second academic qualification ever bestowed on a woman by a European university, and the first woman to earn a professorship in physics at a university in Europe.
Born in Bologna into a wealthy family with a lawyer as a father, she was privately educated and tutored for seven years in her teens by Gaetano Tacconi, a University teacher of Biology, Natural History and Medicine. She came to the attention of Cardinal Prospero Lambertini, who encouraged her scientific work.
She was appointed professor of anatomy in 1731 at the University of Bologna at the age of 21, was elected to the Academy of the Institute for Sciences in 1732 and, the next year, was given the chair of philosophy. In her early years, her teaching opportunities were restricted to occasional lectures. In 1738, she married Giuseppe Veratti, a fellow academic with whom she had twelve children. After this, she was able to lecture from home on a regular basis and successfully petitioned the University for more responsibility and a higher salary to allow her to purchase her own equipment.
She was mainly interested in Newtonian physics and taught courses on the subject for 28 years. She was one of the key figures in introducing Newton's ideas of physics and natural philosophy to Italy. She also carried out experiments of her own in all aspects of physics. In her lifetime, she published 28 papers, the vast majority of these on physics and hydraulics, though she did not write any books.
In 1745, Lambertini (now Pope Benedict XIV) established an elite group of 25 scholars known as the Benedettini ("Benedictines", named after himself.) Bassi pressed hard to be appointed to this group, but there was a mixed reaction from the other academics. Ultimately, Benedict did appoint her, the only woman in the group.
In 1776, at the age of 65, she was appointed to the chair in experimental physics by the Bologna Institute of Sciences, with her husband as a teaching assistant. Two years later, she died, having made physics into a lifelong career and broken a huge amount of ground for women in academic circles.
She was elected member of many literary societies and carried on an extensive correspondence with the most eminent European men of letters. She was well acquainted with classical literature, as well as with that of France and Italy.
Honors and Awards 
A 31 km crater on Venus honours her name, along with a high school (language, social sciences and music) and a city street in Bologna.
|About Laura Bassi|
|By Laura Bassi|
- Miscellanea, 1732. The International Center for the History of Universities and Science (CIS), University of Bologna
See also 
- Elena Cornaro Piscopia
- Christina Roccati
- Sophia Elisabet Brenner
- Aurora Liljenroth
- Maria Pellegrina Amoretti
- "Laura Bassi". MacTutor Biography. University of St Andrews. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "Laura Bassi". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 30 October 2012.
- Chisholm 1911.
- Venus Crater Database: Bassi
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bassi, Laura Maria Caterina.|
Further reading